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Malaysia steps up diplomatic offensive over refugee crisis
By IANS | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 5/18/2015 12:00:00 AM

Bangkok:  Malaysia is planning to begin a series of diplomatic contacts with Thailand and Indonesia to deal with the immigration crisis affecting the three countries and to pressure Myanmar to involve itself in a regional agreement on the subject, media reported on Monday.

Some 2,500 undocumented immigrants have sailed to the three countries in the past week despite attempts to keep them offshore, a move that has sparked criticism from the United Nations and humanitarian organisations. A large number of the migrants are Rohingyas, a Muslim minority that is fleeing persecution in Myanmar, which does not accord them citizenship and from which many sail in boats operated by people traffickers. Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin urged Myanmar to resolve its internal crisis with the Rohingya instead of foisting off the problem on neighbouring countries.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said he will meet with his Indonesian and Thai counterparts on Monday and Wednesday, respectively, to agree on a proposal to present to Myanmar within the framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Malaysia holds the rotating presidency of the multilateral regional organization this year and all four countries are members.

For the moment, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are maintaining their policy of blocking access to their coastlines to the migrant boats, thus trapping some 6,000 immigrants on board, according to the U.N., although in some cases they have been provided with water, food and fuel. "We re concerned about the conditions of those Rohingya on the boats and we re aiding them with the help of non-governmental organisations.

But for now we can t admit such a large group of refugees. There s no other country that is ready to accept them," Anifah said on the island of Borneo after meeting with his Bangladeshi counterpart, given that that South Asian nation is where a good part of the migrants and the boats originate. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, some 25,000 people set sail in boats from Bangladesh and Myanmar during this year s first quarter, double the number registered during the same period last year.

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Malaysia steps up diplomatic offensive over refugee crisis

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